With a graceful lilt
Autochthonous, Number 4
by William Grant Still
A reoccurring theme in this blog is the access to music that anyone and everyone, has so long as they have access to the world wide web.
I am sure there was NEVER been a time in all of human history that such much music is available to so many people for so little effort.
You can search You Tube (Bach and Emperor) to watch a scene for a movie where Frederick the Great summons Johann Sebastian Bach to the palace to play something.
Well, I can bring up anyone from anywhere for any piece of music with a few taps of my fingers.
Almost beyond belief.
As my faithful readers know, I listen to Classic FM when I am working.
It is a Classical Music global radio station from London.
Being from London, it is four or five hours ahead of me so I know that somewhere in the world, someone has already made through the next four or five hours.
It also has the best traffic reports.
When the A1 to Cambridge was backed up all the way to the anti clockwise at Potter’s Bar due to a lorry overturned in the lay by, Atlanta traffic didn’t seem so bad.
It is an interesting radio station in that it uses the same software to determine playlists used by pop radio stations.
This is bad as that you did get to hear a lot of music a lot.
I mean it repeats favorites often.
Maybe I could do with a little less Elgar in my day.
But this is good as you avoid a lot of Mahler.
And it is good because when you hear something unfamiliar there is a chance you will hear it again.
So it happened today.
You see, some time back I caught a piece of music new to me.
While I could browse the online playlists for the stations, I think this was one of those moments when the presenter snuck a piece of music on air to see the reaction.
I could tell from the sound that the piece was American.
And I could tell from the sound that the piece was most like from the Big Band – Jazz era.
It was Aaron Copland-esque without being Aaron Copland.
It was Virgil Thomson-esque without being Virgil Thomson.
But I could not found what it was.
And it was played again today.
This time it WAS listed in the online playlist.
I wasn’t prepared for what I learned.
I had never, NEVER heard of the piece of music or the composer ever.
The piece was the 3rd Movement of the 4th Symphony of one William Grant Still.
The symphony is titled, Autochthonous which is defined as an adjective (of an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists.
The 3rd Movement is titled, ” With a graceful lilt.”
William Grant Still, according to Wikipedia, is known primarily for his first symphony, Afro-American Symphony (1930), which was, until 1950, the most widely performed symphony composed by an American. Also of note, Still was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (which was, in fact, the first one he composed) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.
Wikipedia continues, “Still arranged music for films. These included Pennies from Heaven (the 1936 film starring Bing Crosby and Madge Evans) and Lost Horizon (the 1937 film starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe). For Lost Horizon, he arranged the music of Dimitri Tiomkin. Still was also hired to arrange the music for the 1943 film Stormy Weather, but left the assignment because “Twentieth-Century Fox ‘degraded colored people.’
I typed William Grant Still into the google and am now introducing myself to the wonderful works that Mr. Still created for us.
I didn’t know his name until today.
But I will know his name and his work for the rest of my life.
I have to ask, how many more William Grant Still’s might be out there?
Sometimes the changes brought upon us by the information superhighway are for the better.
I’ll take the access to the music of William Grant Still any day.
That and the search for more like this.